This week I thought I'd pause from talking about specific Commander decks and instead discuss some fundamentals of deckbuilding. Specifically, lands.
For instance, you probably need to play this more:
It was kind of sneaky putting this card in a Commander product that was so focused on tribal synergies. It's easy to glance at this card, nod, and toss it into any of your tribal decks. We all love tribal decks. Attaching a scry trigger to each of our tribal cards is good times. Smiles all around!
But hang on a second. This isn't like Cavern of Souls where you have to name a particular creature type to gain benefit from the card. This taps for any color mana that's part of your commander's color identity, and you can use that mana to cast whatever spells you want, not just tribal spells. So, the very worst-case scenario, the floor on this card, is a Command Tower that enters the battlefield tapped, and whenever you use it to cast your commander, you get to scry.
Is the floor of this card worth playing in a mono-color or two-color deck? Unlikely. We'd probably want a substantial number of cards that share a creature type with our commander cards before we add Path of Ancestry. But consider these cards:
If you're playing a three-, four-, or five-color deck, you're probably playing with these cards because having a land that taps for one of three colors is awesome when your color identity gets complicated. I would suggest if you're playing with any of these cards in your deck, you should also play Path of Ancestry because it's strictly better than these cards at the floor and the more colors are in your deck and the more creatures in your deck share your commander's creature type, the better this gets.
Path of Ancestry. It's not just for tribal decks!
Also, this card probably belongs in any deck that's not playing four or five colors:
I've been scooping up copies of Arch of Orazca because they're currently cheap as dirt, and I anticipate playing this card in Commander decks forever. Unless you're playing with the spikiest of Commander Spikes, getting to ten permanents is trivially easy. Once you've got that city's blessing, Arch will do you good work when you're running low on gas. This is essentially a colorless Whispers of the Muse that can tap for mana. It's especially good when you've got instant speed answer cards that you want to keep ready if needed but don't want to waste all your mana each turn.
Conversely, all y'all need to stop playing this card:
That's right-I broke out the plural form of y'all (I'm Southern, I get to do that) to make sure that all of y'all stop playing this terrible card.
Look, I know everyone gets caught up in living the dream of having access to six mana on turn 5. Or maybe even turn 4 if you're playing a ramp spell like Cultivate or Sakura-Tribe Elder. But wouldn't it be nice if your sweet land tapped for mana before you had five lands on the battlefield? We're playing a 100-card singleton deck; occasionally you're going to miss a land drop in the first four or five turns of the game. Let's be honest, if you've got five lands on the battlefield early in the game you're already doing pretty good, you've got mana to cast some spells and participate. That makes Temple of the False God a "win more" card. There are going to be times when you keep a three-land hand that looks pretty good but then draw expensive spell after expensive spell and all you want is to draw your fourth land so you can cast Solemn Simulacrum… and you're going to draw Temple of the False God instead.
Temple of the False God is an aptly named trap, and it makes me mad when Wizards prints it in their Commander products. I have been known to rip up the card into little pieces despite the cool artwork. I wouldn't necessarily advocate doing that, but I would strongly recommend sticking them in the back of your land box and ignoring its siren song. There are numerous great land cards you can play in your Commander decks, and Temple of the False God is not even remotely one of them.
You also probably shouldn't play these:
I know this borders on heresy, and I fully acknowledge there are exceptions to this rule (which I will bring up in a moment), but I think may too many people play fetchlands when they shouldn't. I understand the appeal-sacrifice and you can search up a variety of lands that provide you with two colors. The original duals, shocklands, Battle lands, the cycling lands from Amonket, what have you.
Here's the thing. Each of the fetchlands is a tutor. You're not cracking a fetchland to search up a basic land unless it's way in the late game and it doesn't matter. So, you're going to be searching for a very specific land, and that takes time to find, and then you've got to shuffle your giant deck afterwards. And since you're probably fetching up a land to cast a spell with, everyone is sitting there waiting for you to do your thing. For Commander it's usually best if you don't have too many tutors in your deck to delay the game, and then sprinkling in more of them in land form just adds to the down time.
Here's another, subtler thing: shuffling your deck is a resource. Just think about one of the most powerful interactions ever printed in competitive Magic: Brainstorm and a fetchland. Draw three cards, pick the two least useful cards, put them back on top of your deck and crack the fetchland to shuffle them away. Now that Jace, the Mind Sculptor is unbanned we're going to see that powerful interaction in Modern.
Here's the thing: what if your opening hand has Sylvan Library, a Forest, and some sweet three mana cards. If your last card is a Misty Rainforest and you don't draw another land in the first two draws, you'll have to use Misty Rainforest to get your second land and waste the shuffle.
Instead, play more of these:
If that second land in your hand was Bant Panorama, you can tap it for colorless mana and play Sylvan Library. Now you can hang onto Bant Panorama, using it for mana, and pop it off when you need to reset the top of your library.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. If your Commander table is very competitive and games go fast, by all means use the fetchlands instead. They are incredibly efficient and you probably aren't worried about resetting the top of your library all that much. There are also Commander decks where having lands enter the battlefield or graveyard, such as landfall cards, Knight of the Reliquary, or The Gitrog Monster, in which case the fetchlands make a lot of sense. Of course, in those cases you could play some Panoramas too!
Panoramas also provide colorless mana, and sometimes that's important. For instance, these are really good lands to have in your deck if you've got a fair number of colorless mana sources:
Not to mention all the sweet Eldrazi that require colorless mana to cast or activate abilities for.
I know some of these might be in your Modern deck, but give them a whirl in Commander!
So, what about these?
When Oath of the Gatewatch came out and Wizards of the Coast unveiled the sixth color of Magic, "colorless," I thought it was a brilliant move. Suddenly, the painlands went from being tier two color fixers to being tri-lands, which was awesome. I hope that Wizards will circle back around to cards that care about colorless mana sooner rather than later. If your deck is playing a fair number of Eldrazi and special lands that require colorless mana, then I can see playing these in Commander; if not, I'm generally not a big fan of these in the format. If one of these cards is the only source of colored mana from the beginning of the game, you can end up taking a lot of damage.
One last thing: you're probably not playing enough lands in your Commander deck. Yeah, I know, when you add in all the artifact mana, creatures that tap for mana, and ramp spells, your deck might be pushing 50% mana production. So it's tempting to scrimp on your actual land count to squeeze in more cool cards. But think about 60 card decks: in Standard, the standard for lands is 24 in a 60-card deck. If your deck is very aggressive with a low mana curve, you may shave a few lands. If your deck is slower and more mana hungry, you may add a few. That's 40% lands. 40% of 100 cards in Commander is 40 lands. I usually go by a baseline of 38 lands, but I'll very rarely go less than that and will often go higher if my Commander is more expensive. Here's the thing: If you stall on land drops in a duel, you've only got one opponent that's pulling ahead of you. In Commander, you've got multiple opponents pulling ahead of you. You want to avoid missing land drops in the early game if at all possible, and playing plenty of lands can help with that. You can mitigate land shortage with a free mulligan, but after that you pay the very real cost of losing a starting card-again, you're falling behind not just one opponent but multiple opponents.
Of course, on the flip side is the very real possibility of land flood, which is slightly less frustrating but something that can quickly drain the fun out of a game of Commander. Make sure you put in plenty of cards you can sink excess mana into for effect. Hey, you can even add some lands that are good mana sinks:
Also, the numerous creature-lands make good mana sinks too.
So, what do you think? Agree with some of what I've laid out here? Disagree? Let me know your thoughts on lands in Commander!
For more Commander goodness, be sure to check out Sheldon Menery's excellent strategy article The Philosophy of Second Best . Commander is a format where you want to play big, splashy haymaker cards, but sometimes being the first to do so can gain too much attention from your opponents. Sheldon gives some tips for showing a little bit of restraint and let someone else take the heat until the time is ripe. On the video front, the Commander Vs team play four more random decks built by the West brothers . Justin rocks Pang Tong, "Young Phoenix", Stephen Green goes old school with Halfdane, Jeremy gets devoted to Ephara, God of the Polis, and Jonathan Suarez is heaving stuff with Brion Stoutarm.
New to Commander?
If you're just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
- Commander Primer Part 1 (Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
- Commander Primer Part 2 (Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
- Commander Primer Part 3 (Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
- Commander Starter Kits 1 (kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 2 (kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 3 (kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
Commander write-ups I've done (and links to decklists):